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SK Hynix SC308 SSD Review

Final Thoughts

I always find it odd when a consumer SSD performs better during heavy workloads than moderate workloads. The problem isn't that the drive is faster under heavy load, but that it doesn't provide increased performance during lighter loads. Flash processor designers turned to SLC technology to make 3-bit per cell flash a viable option for PC use -- it increased both performance and endurance. Some companies have paired TLC with MLC flash, but with mixed results. The brief increase in performance works well for desktop use, but the corresponding drop-off hurts heavy workload performance where the focus is on consistency.

The new SC308 is a bit of a throwback to older SSDs, but Hynix based it on an older controller that the company revised over the years to work with new types of flash. Much of the LAMD technology still exists in the SH87820BB controller, and that's what we see in the performance charts. The original LAMD controllers suffered from poor mixed-workload performance, and it's an issue that hasn't been addressed. In synthetic workloads with a single task, the SH87820BB lights the boards up like a star athlete showing off for a college scout. When double teamed, its game falls apart. Addressing the issue would likely require a significant architectural redesign. The SH87820BB uses only two processor cores to compete with products using as many as eight cores. With more processing resources at its disposal, SK Hynix could release a product that's equal or superior to the Samsung SSDs.

Like Samsung, SK Hynix builds and designs all of the components that make an SSD. These products are largely intended for the OEM market. We've yet to see a true aftermarket SSD from SK Hynix. OEM system builders don't want or need an expensive high-performance SSD because they usually don't sell boutique systems to enthusiasts and power users. We would love to see SK Hynix dedicate resources to building two product lines like Samsung does. One division could focus on the OEM market and another could create products that replace the OEM drives in the aftermarket.

There is a lot of push back in the industry towards aftermarket upgrades. SSDs have fallen prey with TLC flash taking over the consumer market, but I don't know many people are shopping for a drive that's slower than one they purchased three years ago. The dream of everyone owning a beige box died long ago, so the larger players are trying to reinvent the idea with a brushed aluminum finish. When it comes to SATA SSDs, they are winning. Your only way to protest is to buy a NVMe drive with MLC flash, but it won't be long before those disappear, too.

SK Hynix designed the SC308 to be a throwback to when SATA SSDs had muscle, but it didn't execute well. The same controller paired with planar TLC flash and an SLC buffer easily outperforms the SC308 under desktop workloads. The SL308 is still a very good drive even though it doesn't deliver consistent performance for professional applications.

To get good sustained performance in 2017 you either need to upgrade to several components that work well with NVMe SSDs, or you need to sacrifice some desktop performance. Niche markets consist of products designed for a specific application or task that isn’t common. That's where the SK Hynix SC308 sits. It's a good SSD for some users, but it's clearly not for everyone.


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  • eyupo92
    The interface/protocol entry 'NVMe 1.2' on the specifications table is wrong - I have testing 128 GB 2.5" and 256 GB m.2 versions, and they are SATA 6 Gbps. In the article you are already mentioning it as SATA, so fixing the table would solve this small issue.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    $130 for the MX300? I wish; it's more like $195 equivalent here (UK). Strangely, the disparity vs. the 850 EVO is less severe, it's priced the same as the MX300, with the SL308 a bit below that. No sign yet of the SC308 from normal sources.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    I applaud the use of MLC, but without a really good controller, it's kind of a waste. For most users, older SATA systems upgrading to an SSD will still be better served with an 850 Evo or similar. It's better in typical end-user scenarios, they don't need the heavy workload and sustained performance as much as they need the light workload / burst speed. I would especially point to the random mixed workload (80% reads) - I feel that sort of test is fairly good at highlighting the differences in performance for the average user's workload.

    I find it kind of sad there isn't really anything that fully dethrones the 850 Evo on performance/value in the SATA world. It's been what, 2.5 years? Longer? There's still a lot of older systems with plenty of CPU horsepower, for which an SSD upgrade from a mechanical drive would vastly improve user experience.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    The low mixed workload performance really hurts the user experience, and that shows in the PCMark 8 Storage test.
    ...Tom's claims, immediately after posting a bunch of "Real-World Software Performance" charts that show all the drives performing very similar to one another. In what way does it "really hurt the user experience" when there's only around a 2% difference in application performance between the drives? Is anyone even going to subjectively distinguish such a difference? If it takes an extra 2 seconds to complete a 2 minute task, how much does that even really matter? Is it worth paying 20% more for another drive just to get 2% better performance in real-world tasks?
    Reply
  • derekullo
    Ooo I recognize this as the ssd in the Dell 7440s we just bought at work (256 gigabytes).

    When your sequential read is basically the limit of SATA and you are pushing 9000 -12000 iops at a queue depth of 1 - 2 the bottleneck is no longer the storage device, it's the storage interface, SATA.

    Having said that the only way to really compete is:

    1. Battery Life (40 minutes is noticeable between this drive and the Samsung)
    2. IOPS at a queue depth of 1 - 4 (Basically so you can put a higher number on the packaging)
    3. Write Speed

    I use a Patriot Memory 256GB Supersonic Magnum 2 with the Windows 7 Bootable install and I'm able to install a fresh Windows 7 in about 10 minutes on a computer with this ssd.
    Windows update is blazingly fast.
    I use this combination to create WIM images that I capture for use on other computers.

    The read speed of the flash drive, 400 MB/s, is faster than the write speed of the Sk Hynix 261 MB/s.

    I would have rathered a Samsung 960 Pro or even a Samsung 850 Evo, but I'm just glad Dell didn't give us an ADATA ... (with that write speed 62 MB/s)


    We've had Sata 3.0 since 2009.

    Hopefully we can see some SATA 3.2 motherboards / ssd releasing soon.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA#SATA_revision_3.2_.2816.C2.A0Gbit.2Fs.2C_1969.C2.A0MB.2Fs.29

    NVME / m.2 is faster but you are limited in the amount of drives that can be attached to the motherboard.
    Reply
  • HERETIC-1
    Hi Chris,
    Agree application bandwidth is a little sad.

    Thro 500 is probably the most common size for a lappy,I think 250 is
    common in desktops as a boot drive-on that note is there any chance
    of a review on MX300-275GB-seems to be a very popular drive-also the
    WD 250 blue would be nice as well..............................
    Keep up the good work.............
    Reply
  • AgentLozen
    I hate how TLC flash is ruining the solid state drive market. Whenever it's used, the outcome is ALWAYS horrendous. I can't think of a single SSD from within the last 3 years that uses TLC and is even remotely well regarded.

    If you're smart like me then you'll stick with the good ol' Intel x25-m. I've got two in RAID 0 in my system at home and I have a few more sitting off to the side in case anything ever goes wrong with them. If you're not familiar with the Intel x25-m, that's because they came out before TLC reared it's ugly head. The x25-m has no competition even today because it's outfitted with MLC flash. Some people say that NVMe M.2 drives are the future, but they can't compete with my Intel drives because they are outfitted with MLC.

    If you guys wanna talk about how cool MLC flash is please PM me. Don't waste my time with TLC though. You might as well be making punch cards and destroying them immediately after if you want the speed and endurance of TLC.

    (If it wasn't clear, I'm being facetious. TLC is perfectly fine for home desktop use. There are plenty of drives like the Samsung 850 and 960 EVO that demonstrate that TLC is a fundamentally sound technology. Please don't PM me gushing about MLC flash. thx)
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    19898964 said:
    The low mixed workload performance really hurts the user experience, and that shows in the PCMark 8 Storage test.
    ...Tom's claims, immediately after posting a bunch of "Real-World Software Performance" charts that show all the drives performing very similar to one another. In what way does it "really hurt the user experience" when there's only around a 2% difference in application performance between the drives? Is anyone even going to subjectively distinguish such a difference? If it takes an extra 2 seconds to complete a 2 minute task, how much does that even really matter? Is it worth paying 20% more for another drive just to get 2% better performance in real-world tasks?

    There is a difference between throughput and latency.

    Reply